See How New Jersey Is Combating Low Space
New Jersey has become a bustling state known for its unique and diverse culture, good food, and busy roads, all thanks to the last two decades of development that has covered the state in homes, shopping malls, and heavily trafficked streets. However, these decades of development have highlighted a growing issue in the state: There’s a lack of land to build upon and, separately, to preserve for wildlife management. This issue was brought to light in 2010, and it’s one the state has not shied away from.
A study in 2010 by Rowan and Rutgers Universities analyzed land usage data and estimated that the state could run out of open land by 2050 at the current rate of development. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country - even though it’s surrounded by the likes of New York, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island, Newark is the biggest city in the state, and it’s become the face of urban neglect. This realization around space has brought about heated debates regarding future development projects.
How Bad Could It Be?
The study breaks down just how much land the state was using, consuming 16,061 acres of land every year between 2002 and 2007, with residential usage accounting for 57% of this developed land. While these figures sound good for the growing population and demand to live in the state, they are quickly consuming a resource that’s already in decline.
"There’s less than a million acres left," said John Hasse, a professor at Rowan University and a co-author of the report. "We have our last 20%.”
With the demand for space to develop quickly outpacing the current supply, it’s likely that the industrial sector and traditional retailers will be duking it out for land.
What Is New Jersey Doing to Curb Land Loss?
Since the sobering realization that the state was running out of space, New Jersey quickly came up with a plan of action. The state is shifting its focus on recycling current space that’s not being used, optimizing space that is used, and developing land that’s already been used in the past. These efforts have helped greatly already; reports in 2020 show that New Jersey is, in fact, using less land and slowing the loss of natural areas.
Dr. Hasse, along with help from Rowan University, created the 2020 report after his first report in 2010. The 2020 report shows that the use of land for urban development averaged 12,426 acres per year between 1985 and 2015 but decelerated sharply to an average of 2,601 acres per year in the four years from 2012 to 2015.
“This is a monumental shift in the development pattern in a strikingly short period,” Dr. Hasse said. He’s used this new data to update an interactive online tool that provides a wealth of land-use data in an easy to digest visual graphic, giving developers and residents alike access to a tool that can highlight both the issue at hand and also the progress that the state has seen in just ten years.
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